Timber of-the-Month: Brown Mallee Burl

Timber of-the-Month: Brown Mallee – Eucalyptus Dumosa (?)

The inaugural timber of-the-month from Brad’s Burls is a piece of Brown Mallee Burl, which looks very interesting in it’s as-cut state, and stunning when given a quick sand and oil (let alone any serious finishing).

Brown Mallee Burl as-cut

Brown Mallee Burl as-cut

There is always a lot of tortured, gnarly grain in a burl which always leads to some very striking patterns.  The edge of the burl has a much lighter shade which will make for an awesome natural-edged object.  In this case, I am considering turning it into a dual lidded box, with the edge of the burl actually meeting at the centreline.

Edge of Burl

Edge of Burl

This piece was approximately 400mm x 400mm x 10mm, costing $33.

Once sanded, some checking near the centre became apparent, and the piece has a slight warp which can be flattened out by storing the piece with some weight resting on it.  (Typical of a burl which has been bought from a NSW to Victorian climate – it needs to acclimatise to the local conditions, and allowing it to do so is a critical step.  The process of acclimatisation will take a few weeks, and it is better to allow it to happen now, than to have it happen uncontrolled in the box or whatever you’ve made from it!)

Sanded to 1200 Grit

Sanded to 1200 Grit

Sanding very quickly revealed more of the character in the timber, and even at the lower grits a sheen was quickly produced.  I continued sanding up to 1200 grit, using a ROS (random orbital sander).  There was a surprisingly little amount of dust produced, and no particular smell to note.

Lightly Oiled piece

Lightly Oiled piece

Next, a light oil was applied (Triton in this case), which really revealed the rich, warm mid brown/orange tone.

Centre Portion, Oiled

Centre Portion, Oiled

The centre area of the burl is also worth noting, and shows a very interesting character.

Closeup of Centre Region

Closeup of Centre Region

Getting in very close, and the texture becomes quite fascinating, with a real 3D effect to the surface – this still looks and feels smooth to the touch, but I spent a long time just looking at the macrostructure that is revealed here.

(Macrostructure – a term I’ve nicked from metallurgy, which is used to describe the general crystalline structure of a metal and the distribution of impurities seen on a polished or etched surface by either the naked eye or under low magnification of less than x10.  Seemed quite appropriate here as well).

So a very promising material, and one that will make a great inlay box lid or similar (once I have the confidence to actually cut into it!)

Thanks to Brad’s Burls, and hopefully this will become a useful photo-resource as the list of timbers covered grows (pun intended!)

Brad's Burls

4 Responses

  1. A beautiful piece of wood, Stu. I saw the Brad’s Burls display at the wood show and was very impressed. I hope to have the skills one day to do a piece justice.

    I’d love to see you do a video making something with one of Brad’s bits of timber. Mainly I’d be interested in seeing how difficult they are to work. I assume that you would be restricted to cutting and sanding? Any attempt to use a jointer or thicknesser would be impossible with the crazy grain?

  2. Same here, so what I have been slowly doing over time is buying pieces that I can’t pass up, then storing them. I don’t have much (yet), but I occasionally look at them and as my skills improve I can see how I could utilise the piece better. I will know when I am good enough to do it justice, the day I am prepared to start cutting. In the meantime, it is good to have a collection grow slowly over time. So what I am getting at is: you don’t have to wait until you have the skills to do a piece justice – if a piece really catches your eye, get it, and put it in your (timber) bank. Then when you finally do make use of it, you and it will already have a long history, and the final result will be even more rewarding.

    Re jointing and thicknessing this sort of timber: don’t! The grain is so twisted and varying that these tools would just rip it to shreads.

    Initially, you can use a drum sander (or a mounted belt sander), but even these linear sanders are no good for final finishing, when only a random orbital sander (ROS) can actually handle the wild grain, and produce a good smooth surface to begin applying a finish.

  3. Hello:

    I have a large Burl (Euc) that fell out of the tree a week back.

    7′ foot X 12 plus foot in diameter

    I will happly e-mail you pictures.

    Please let me knwo if you are interested or know of one that is.

    It is located in Southern California

    Thank You

  4. I work burls from west nsw (mallee) into bowls. I was taught this by my father inlaw, an Aboriginal Elder. I have access to mallee. I have made a huge bowl from brown mallee 1m x .35m x .3mdeep. It is now for sale at Eclipse Furniture in Wagga. What are the ages of these things? If you email me I will send photos of its cutting and working and finished look back to you. I also make them from red mallee, yellow mallee and yellow box.

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